Gardening 101: How To Water Air Plants

Air plants are some of the most unique and relatively easy plants to take care of. With over 500 different varieties of air plants, you are bound to be able to find the one that appeals to you.

Air plants are of the genus Tillandsia and are perennial plants that include many hybrid varieties. 

These distinctive plants require no soil to root in.

This makes them ideal for perching on shelves, in a wall pocket, placed on a wreath, in a glass container, a decorative piece of wood, or your favorite ceramic piece. 

Because these plants are so flexible regarding their vessels, they are trendy for decorating in homes and offices.

These decorative plants are called "air plants" because they take their nutrients from the air.

The plants are epiphytes, meaning that in their natural habitat, they will grow on a tree or other host, using them only as a place to grow.  

Tiny vessels on the air plants leave called trichomes take nutrients and moisture from the air, and enable the plant to sustain itself.

While they are one of the easier plants to care for, they do require some attention. When they get the care that they need, an air plant can last for years and create offshoots called “pups.”

Air plants have three main requirements, water, air, and light. Following the advice below will help you to care for your air plants, and they will last for several years.


How to Water Air Plants

As we mentioned, there are many species of air plants, and they can be unique in size and shape. 

As a general rule, if an air plant is silver-leaved with a high concentration of trichomes, it will do better with more light and a bit less water. 

If the plant is a darker green variety, it will want more water and could be harmed if in direct sunlight. 

Take into consideration your environment, too. If you live in a drier climate, the air plant may need to be water more frequently, or you might need to mist the plant in between waterings. 

If your climate is humid, the air plant would be able to get moisture from the air and need to be watered less.


 How to Water Air Plants

Soil is not a requirement for air plants, but water is critical. You can tell an air plant that has enough hydration as it will have wide, open leaves. 

A dehydrated plant will have leaves that are closed and curled up. If you keep your air plants indoors, plan to water them about once a week on average. 

Keep in mind that if a plant is dried out because of the air conditioning or furnace, they will need moisture more often. 

Because these plants are not potted in soil, they don’t have that material to hold water for them. 

Please don’t think that planting an air plant in the soil will help out, as that will cause them to die. 

Misting is good to do in between waterings, don't rely on misting alone for the water that the plant will need.

Once a week, gather your air plant(s). You are going to place them in a sink, a bowl or other container that has water in it. 

Let the plants soak in the water for about half an hour. Don't submerge the plant, just let them float on the surface of the water. 

If your air plant has blooms or flowers, submerging the flowers can also cause them to rot.  After that time is up, take the plant(s) out of the water and gently shake the excess water off. 

This step is important. Water that collects in the leaves at the bottom of the plants can cause rot and kill the plant. 

Place your watered plant on a paper towel or clean cloth to dry. Give the plants a few hours to dry before placing them back where you had them placed.

Air plants have preferences as to the type of water they do best with. The plants will appreciate rainwater and even a pond or aquarium water. 

Bottled water and spring water also are good for hydration. Never use distilled water, and if you need to use water from the tap, let the water stand overnight before floating the plants in it. 

The overnight time will allow chemicals in the water, such as chlorine, to dissipate.


Just as their name suggests, the air is also vital to the plant. The plants thrive when they have good air circulation. 

When they are drying after they have been watered, it is a good idea to make sure that they have air circulating during this time. 

If you have chosen to place your air plant in a container, it should not be an enclosed one. After watering, the plant should be dried before you put it back in its container.


Indoor air plants need light, just as most other plants do. When choosing a place for your air plant, locate them near an adequate light source. 

Three to five feet from a window or an artificial light source is a reasonable distance. Direct sunlight will damage and even kill the plant. 

If you have air plants outdoors, a shaded area that does not get full sun would be best. Although there are some varieties of air plants that can handle full sun, most of them cannot.


Generally speaking, air plants do well in temperatures that range from 50 to 90 degrees. They do not do well under any circumstances in freezing temperatures.


How to Water Air Plants

As with most plants, your air plant will lose some leaves and grow others. If you want to trim brown or dead leaves, use a pair of scissors to do so. 

Trim the leaves at an angle to preserve a natural appearance. When you first purchase your air plant, it might have been shipped to the store with the roots intact on the plant. 

If you want, and depending on how you will use your plant, you can remove the roots. The roots are used by the plant to anchor itself to its host, such as a tree branch, when in its natural habitat.


As your air plants grow and mature, if it has blossomed, it will run through its bloom cycle. During this cycle, it will produce babies that are called “pups.”  

If you want to remove the pup from the main plant, wait until it reaches about ⅓ of the size of the mother plant. 

The pups can also be left on the plant, and they will eventually form a clump together. The clumps are often hung on a string and make a beautiful arrangement.

Interesting Facts:

  • An interesting fact about air plants is that they are related to pineapples. 
  • Spanish Moss is a type of air plant.
  • Air Plants are native to the West Indies, Mexico, and Central and South America.
  • In the United States, air plants grow in Texa, Georgia, Louisiana, and California. 
  • As with other plants, air plants work hard to remove toxins from the air around them. 
  • They prefer water from lakes, ponds, rain barrels, and birdbaths.

In Conclusion:

How to Water Air Plants

Studies have shown that plants in the home or office help to clear the air and brighten our mood. Air plants come in so many unique and interesting varieties and are lovely for creating decorative displays.

Air plants have a few requirements to thrive, but none of them are difficult to achieve. Just a  little time and even less effort on your part will result in beautiful displays of these unique plants.